From the Amazon to the Mekong, our rivers are threatened by hydro-power, pollution, and contamination. Mega-projects like dams often fail to properly mitigate environmental impacts or maximise opportunities for community-driven development, and these communities are occasionally forced to resettle, risking their livelihoods. Corporations often capture the benefits of these development projects, while the environmental and human rights repercussions are felt by many on the ground. It’s crucial that we challenge corporate interests and continue to respect and protect our rivers.
In recognition of World Rivers Day, here are five blogs that celebrate and highlight the importance of our rivers.
I’m very happy that some people want to stop the dams, for me, and also for themselves. They help each other and fight for their rights without violence. I hope something will change in the future.
I’m a river. I have flowed for millions of years and will continue to flow. Without me, humans will die out, but without humans, I will still exist. I don’t want to ask you to protect me; just think about yourselves.
At the Salween River Youth Camp in late August, young people from diverse communities on both sides of the Salween River on the Myanmar-Thai border came to Tha Ta Fang village in Thailand to learn about dam projects and local ecosystems.
The participants at the camp learned about ecosystems along in the Salween River through exchanges with one another. They divided into groups to explore topics related to ecosystems in the Salween River. One group shared knowledge about fish. Another group focused on the culture and traditions of communities on both sides of the Salween, while a third documented herbs growing on the communities’ land. The groups shared their findings with each other, helping the youth to recognize the importance of these ecosystems to their communities.
As these young people see it, it’s important to protect the Salween River for their descendants and future generations.
A group of Karen Indigenous communities campaigned to halt the construction of the Hatgyi dam in Ei Thu Tha village and celebrated the International Day of Action for Rivers March 14. The Hatgyi dam is one of the biggest dams on the Salween River that will destroy the livelihoods of thousands and hamper the peace process in Myanmar.
Rivers are critical shared resources that belong not to one nation, but to all who are dependent on them. Our work often revolves around rivers and the people who rely on them for food, water, and transportation. From fighting Occidental Petroleum’s oil contamination in the Corrientes River basin in the Amazon since 2007, to standing by indigenous communities in Peru who still face major oil spills today, to challenging mega-dams on the Mekong river and its tributaries in Southeast Asia — we know the importance of free-flowing and clean waters to indigenous communities and fishing communities around the world.
Dams on the Mekong River will impact fish migration and ecosystems. Around 70 percent of the Mekong River’s fish migrate long distances between upstream and downstream and to tributaries. This is essential for their life cycle. Building dams will block this fish migration and result in a significant decline in the number of fish and will endanger certain fish species.
I’ve learned that the power of community is very important and if you want to run a campaign, you have to win over yourselves first. A successful campaign doesn’t only mean targeting investors, but the vital thing is empowering the community to love their river.